In cases when offenses are committed that are detrimental to society, these are called crimes. It is a legal fiction, according to common law jurisdiction, that the peace of the sovereign is disturbed in crimes committed. The agents of sovereign are government officials, and they are responsible for the prosecution of offenders. Thus, the word plaintiff under criminal law is the sovereign or translated into the people.
Criminal law has its major objectives as deterrence and punishment, while civil law is concentrated on individual compensation. A criminal offence has two particular elements and these are the physical act or the actus reur or guilty act and the requisite mental state of which the act is done or mens rea or guilty mind. In a murder case for example, the actus reus is the unlawful killing of a person while it is the intention to kill or cause grievous injury as the mens rea. In order to lessen or negate the criminal liability of the person who committed the offence, the criminal law would detail the defences of the defendants and this will determine the degree of the criminal liability of the person concern. Criminal will not require a victim or a victim’s consent in order to prosecute the offender. Also, the consent of the victim cannot be a defence in most crimes, and note that even with the objections of the victim, a criminal prosecution can take place.
There are two fields that a criminal law would play in most jurisdictions of both common and civil law traditions. First is that the criminal procedure would regulate the process in order to address the violations of criminal law. Another field is the substantive criminal law that specifies the definition of and punishments for in the different crimes.
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With criminal law, crimes from civil wrongs like tort or breach of contract are distinguished from the other. While civil law has the objective of primarily directing relationships between groups and individuals and their obligations and rights under the law, criminal law is viewed as a system of regulating individuals and groups in relation to the whole society. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the legal systems in the past underwent a definition between civil and criminal law. The English common criminal law of 1750 has become the basic course in criminal law in most U.S. law schools.
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There are several types of criminal law and these are arrests and searches, drug crimes, juvenile law, drunk driving, parole, probation, pardons, violent crimes, white collar crimes and military law.
Be informed that the other name of criminal law is penal law, and it is the term used to refer many rule bodies with specific jurisdictions.